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Topic Title: MSc in Power Asset Management
Topic Summary: Liverpool John Moore University
Created On: 13 December 2012 01:07 PM
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 13 December 2012 01:07 PM
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CelticHeathen

Posts: 46
Joined: 10 December 2012

HI all,

I have been offered an opportunity to study for the above post-graduate qualification, while continuing my career development in Power Engineering.

In the long term, I am aiming for CEng status and so post-grad study to Masters level is a must, although I cannot afford to do it F/T. This seems, on paper at least, like a very good path to take and is flexible to my work demands.

Does anyone have any input on whether it would be a good career move? Do any of you have any (or know of anyone who has) experience of taking a similar route?

All opinions are welcomed.

Thank you!
 14 December 2012 09:31 AM
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roybowdler

Posts: 276
Joined: 25 July 2008

I have no direct experience of this course and I am not making a formal comment on behalf of the IET, but your request stimulated my interest, so I looked it up on the web. At one time I (representing an employer) had a close working relationship with the JMU School of the Built Environment and with a third partner Liverpool Community College, instigated what has become a suite of degree programmes.

I note that the university has many accredited programmes in which similar content has been independently validated by the IET. I also noted that this programme is delivered in partnership with EA Technology, an organisation with a long track record as an industry centre of research and consultancy excellence. So "on paper" this looks like a very good programme addressing an important need, which I would want to support.

To be fair there are also other universities with strong offerings this sector (such as Aston for example). Hopefully someone will be able to give you feedback from actual experience of participation, so you can make a well-informed investment choice.

The extent to which the programme will equip you for CEng registration will depend on a number of factors. The most important being how your professional achievements illustrate the competences in UK-SPEC. If you are an experienced professional, perhaps demonstrating IEng competence at present, then this looks an good way to extend your knowledge to underpin the different CEng A&B competences. I wouldn't want to speculate further (especially in public) on your situation, but if your employer is willing to support you, then your long-term goal is certainly achievable.

-------------------------
Roy Bowdler IEng FIET FCIPD
IET Registration & Standards

Edited: 14 December 2012 at 10:05 AM by roybowdler
 17 December 2012 04:23 PM
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CelticHeathen

Posts: 46
Joined: 10 December 2012

Thank you very much for the reply, it was very helpful.

Are you saying, then, that you can vouch for EA Technology and their track record? I ask, of course, because there are many companies out there who "cold call" employers with offers which appear too good to be true (and more often than not, are).

I am seriously considering this course, but to answer your latter query, I am on the first rung of the post-graduation career ladder (1st year of solid Engineering experience) and am also upgrading my BSc to an MEng on a P/T basis through the Open Uni, but have found their offering of Engineering courses very limiting (by their very own admission and in direct correspondence, they admit they are very poor in Electrical and Electronic Engineering) and so am seriously considering transferring.

With this in mind, any advice is valued and I thank you for that. I am aware that reaching the higher echelons of our profession is a long, hard road and never a straightforward one. I will endeavour to stay on course, however. Of course, if you wish to add anything, please do so.
 19 December 2012 09:16 AM
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roybowdler

Posts: 276
Joined: 25 July 2008

EA Technology emerged from the Electricity Council Research Centre which was a the national centre of excellence in its field from the 60s-1990. I couldn't comment on its current capability from personal contact, although I attended an interesting local network presentation by a member of EA Technology staff about "partial discharge" a couple of years ago. I am also aware of the quality of their employees who have sought professional registration in recent times.

I'm slightly disappointed that there are some potential issues with the OU programme. I wouldn't of expect them to be able to replicate the type of industry focussed JMU programme that you are considering. The OUs model is different, but many engineers have progressed with the help of OU qualifications, most of which are recognised by the IET, with a particular pathway being formally accredited.

As no one else has posted I suggest you make enquiries by other means. I would be worried if someone did post critical comment in the forum which might be unjustified.

-------------------------
Roy Bowdler IEng FIET FCIPD
IET Registration & Standards
 25 December 2012 09:48 PM
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kasese

Posts: 183
Joined: 31 March 2006

Check first
I did a MSc in Process Manufacturing Management (technical & job related) + MBA the interview panel looked at both as CPD not futher learning so no advantage at all.

Tim Guy
MSc MBA HND(Engineering) ASEE DEM (Hons) IEng MIET
 03 January 2013 11:36 AM
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roybowdler

Posts: 276
Joined: 25 July 2008

Tim's experience illustrates the point that I alluded to in my first answer. I can't comment on his personal situation but he has every right to take pride in his excellent qualifications (including the DEM, well-respected at the time). If he was invited to a Professional Review Interview (PRI) then his qualifications (together with any other evidence) were accepted as sufficient evidence of underpinning knowledge and understanding. Some other institutions use the phrase "met the academic requirement" to describe this type of situation. It is not the role of PRI Interviewers to categorise qualifications and some element of misunderstanding has developed in this respect.

The initial stages of the IET assessment process for IEng & CEng are designed to ensure that PRI is only conducted when there is good evidence of achievement and knowledge. However the whole process, with several stages of expert review including the PRI, may identify shortfalls in one or more of the UK-SPEC competence requirements.

Historically the emphasis has been placed on academic qualifications, to the extent that it became a widely held belief that these were the only factor. The simplistic formula: right level of qualification + experience = registration, is misleading. Whatever your qualifications and experience, registration can only be achieved by demonstrating full personal responsibility over a reasonable period, aligned with the UK-SPEC competences for each type of registration.

Particularly over the last few years there are increasing numbers of Technician and IEng registrants with degrees (including higher degrees). Anyone seeking professional registration in whichever section of the register, needs to understand the concept of competence (i.e. proven practice). The IET provides support and guidance to members, both prior to making an application and during the process. However it should be understood that we are trying to allocate an huge variety of practice and qualifications into 3 categories. This is not an easy task, especially around the boundaries between these categories.

If you are setting out in the profession and looking at a full-time university course then choose an IET accredited one if you can. If you are still looking for full-time study after a first degree then choose something focussed on what you really want to pursue as a career direction, but speak to potential employers first. If you are employed and looking for part-time study options there are a great variety of good academic programmes targeted at different markets. Many employers also offer career development that can stretch knowledge as well as professional practice.

-------------------------
Roy Bowdler IEng FIET FCIPD
IET Registration & Standards
 04 January 2013 12:44 PM
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CelticHeathen

Posts: 46
Joined: 10 December 2012

Thank you very much once again for your detailed replies, they have been very helpful.

To clarify a little, I did a 3yr BSc in Applied Physics in Glasgow (Strathclyde Uni) a few years back, but in recent years have been studying P/T with the OU for the MEng. The experience in my 1st degree allowed me a credit transfer equivalent to the first 18mths of the 4-year (8 years P/T) MEng programme and thus I am currently undertaking the BEng (Hons) part, due to finish in August.

Alongside this, I have a good job in Project Engineering and am being primed for a senior management role. So, on the surface, things are going well for me.

However, the problem arises where (and I'm sure many have been in similar situations) I face hitting a "glass ceiling" career-wise if I don't do what is necessary to compile a sufficient portfolio to put me in a position for my long-term goal of achieving CEng. Sadly, the OU is, by the admission of senior academics I have liaised with, "not strong in Electrical Engineering and we have never been competitive in Power Engineering".

With that in mind, I have had to consider pulling out with a BEng (Hons) in the Autumn and doing a Masters (MEng or the MSc) elsewhere.

Tough choice, but you have been helpful thus far. Thanks for that.
 08 January 2013 11:28 AM
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CelticHeathen

Posts: 46
Joined: 10 December 2012

Just to clarify, Mr. Bowdler, what is the IET's stance on institutions like the OU? When I first signed up with them, I was under the impression that employers valued their qualifications, at least insofar as their students were highly thought of due to the commitment, organisation, dedication and time-management that goes in to completing an OU degree alongside F/T work.

Sadly, I found the reality to be somewhat different and your IEng/Technician comments touch upon an issue here... i.e. that degrees are being diluted and are becoming little more than what the HNC was a few decades ago.

I have to therefore question the value of doing the MEng or MSc...
 09 January 2013 02:15 PM
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roybowdler

Posts: 276
Joined: 25 July 2008

Sorry if the answer is little long but I think it provides an opportunity to address some common issues which others may find of interest. I am not commenting directly on your personal circumstances.

Many IET members have progressed their careers and gained professional registration via OU qualifications. Historically the degrees weren't formally accredited because they didn't fit the prescriptive model of accreditation (a QA process). This was corrected a couple of years ago, but the accredited pathway within the OU is prescribed.

There are hundreds if not thousands of degree programmes offered by universities in the UK and overseas which could contribute to professional development or provide underpinning knowledge evidence acceptable for professional registration. A proportion benefit from formal professional institution accreditation and may therefore be deemed "exemplifying" under UK-SPEC. This status illustrates a "safe choice" and offers an advantage in any professional registration application.

The IET does not "require" members to follow a prescribed pathway to professional registration and various combinations of formal qualifications and experience are accepted on an individual basis. If someone is seeking Chartered Engineer then there is an expectation of "Masters level" knowledge. An appropriate MSc with strong technical content or a good BEng (preferably accredited) plus evidence of further learning at masters level (not necessarily a MSc) both offer good evidence of this knowledge.

Choosing a university programme to invest in is like many other decisions, a matter of opinion. If I use the analogy of a Car, nearly all models offer similar utilitarian advantages (i.e. A to B in a similar time), many offer quite similar features which can be evaluated. Some offer more specific benefits, such as four-wheel drive (good if you live up a muddy lane) a prestige image (handy if you frequent wine bars in Alderley Edge), or even both (good for school runs in Chelsea)

I hope that any advice I have given is not mistaken as negative comment about the OU (I hold an OU degree myself) although you are entitled to comment based on your own experience. The general argument about academic "grade inflation" is a rather different one, It isn't an argument that I would want to pursue because we should be focussed on the present and future, not the past. Purely to provide perspective (particularly in the context of IEng) I might observe that the system of apprenticeships and part-time study (typically to HNC - but it could be a degree) has produced good engineers for a very long time. I await any evidence to support the proposition that studying full-time (nominally to a higher level) followed by actual experience produces superior results for most "mainstream" engineers. I think there might be a case at the more analytical, innovative and conceptual end of CEng work (e.g. R&D or strategic management). For this reason I would like to see far more high level technical apprenticeships, aimed at what I see as the "mainstream" IEng standard.

To return to the main point, I would nearly always encourage a practising professional to pursue a masters programme, if the opportunity presents itself. The following caveats apply, be enthused by the content and don't sacrifice opportunities to build your career achievements, as these are usually more important.

In my personal opinion the "best time" to invest in a masters is when you have gained enough experience to develop your own "expert" perspective and would like to challenge your thinking against other perspectives or by original research. The programme you mentioned initially looked promising with these objectives in mind. If the objective is primarily to gain CEng registration then also look at Engineering Council "Gateways" programmes.

The "Glass Ceiling" analogy is a good one, as the phrase developed to describe unfair discrimination and unjustified prejudice. Some organisations make CEng a requirement (or more usually "an advantage") for particular posts. Where this is being properly used in a well-calibrated way, as an independent benchmark of competence, this is an excellent idea. Although in a recruitment advertising situation the requirement might be intended to limit the numbers of applications to manageable proportions.

The possibility exists of "chicken and egg situations" where the opportunity to demonstrate CEng competence is only available by being in the CEng designated post, but it seems unlikely that an employer would block "the best person for the job". Problems can also arise from poor calibration such as a post being designated "CEng only" when IEng would be equally (or sometimes more) suitable. A further example of poor practice would be to impose a requirement (such as a certain degree) which isn't directly relevant to current competence. This sort of thing was normal in the past and I still see a few examples, but the IET assessment process is now competence based and recent anti-discrimination legislation applies. For example there is hardly anyone over a certain age with an MEng, or anyone under a certain age with 10 years' work experience, so unless you can demonstrate why such factors are directly relevant to current capability in the job, then potentially unfair age discrimination may occur.

-------------------------
Roy Bowdler IEng FIET FCIPD
IET Registration & Standards
 11 January 2013 04:51 PM
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CelticHeathen

Posts: 46
Joined: 10 December 2012

Thanks once again for the helpful replies. I have considered all that you have said very carefully and have a few constructive comments that I would like to add:

Firstly, I believe that it is wrong to downplay the impact that the changes to higher education have had. It is undeniable that while the COST of a University education has risen exponentially, the VALUE of one has decreased by the same order of magnitude. When I hear the various Engineering institutions across the UK decrying the lack of next-gen engineers to reach replacement levels, while there are many Engineering Graduates either under-employed, or worse, on the dole, alarm bells start ringing.

What seems to be the problem (and I can only speak for myself and those in industry whom I associate with) is that there are too many people with "degrees" from (often dubious) "Universities" and too few with skilled apprenticeships. While you rightly call for an increase in the latter, consider the lost generation we have... the Graduates who are a product of said system who have left higher education and are (a) considered either "over-qualified" or "under-experienced, (b) are turned down for re-training/apprenticeships because they are too old, (c) face increasing hostility in an ever-changing global market which has seen the UK rely less and less on heavy industry and more on the finance sector, or (d) a combination of the above.

Whether we like it or not, the UK's skills shortage is not going to get better anytime soon and may indeed even worsen. I think programmes like the one I mentioned at the start from LJMU are a step in the right direction, but will employers take the initiative and invest in young people?

I'm not very optimistic at the moment...
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